'For the greater good': Stow council opens door for cremations to occur in city limits
Crematories will soon be permitted within Stow but it may be some time before cremations are actually occurring in the city.
Currently, Stow prohibits cremations inside city limits, forcing local funeral homes to work with third-party providers in neighboring communities despite a rising preference for cremations over burials.
But, with a 4-1 recommendation from the planning commission, City Council on March 11 approved an amendment to the zoning code that would allow crematories as a conditional use in the I-2 Industrial Zone, located in the northwest quadrant of the city.
The amendment also stipulates that any crematory must be located at least 250 feet from the residential district line, and must be in compliance with all state and federal laws and regulations.
The change is effective 30 days after council approval, but president of Redmon Funeral Home Keith Redmon, who requested the amendment, previously stated that he does not have plans to build a crematory in the city.
Redmon did not respond to a request for comment.
Planning director Rob Kurtz noted that because crematories are now a conditional use, anyone wanting to build a crematory in the city would first need to submit an application for a specific site, which would then be reviewed by the planning commission and adopted by council.
"No one's come forward with a specific plan for a specific location," he said.
The amendment comes nine years after Redmon initially asked for permission to cremate bodies at his Darrow Road business. He was met with intense opposition from residential neighbors, and ultimately withdrew his request.
The new proposal passed through council with opposition votes coming from Council vce president Jeremy McIntire, who lived across from Redmon at the time of their first proposal, and Ward 4 Councilman Mario Fiocca, who represents the area where crematories would be permissible.
The vote came after a public hearing, which was delayed in order to give residents more time to respond and which no member of the public, including Redmon, attended.
Both Fiocca and McIntire said that they would prefer Redmon or anyone else to propose the amendment with a specific site in mind.
McIntire also questioned what value a crematory would bring to Stow.
"I can't identify any other than allowing that service for people who use [Redmon's] services in Stow, and that it could happen locally as opposed to outside of the city," Kurtz said, adding that it was unlikely that tax revenues would increase by allowing crematories.
Councilman Steve Hailer noted that cremations are a preferred end-of-life arrangement for many cultures and that council should be sensitive to that, given their resolution to promote racial equality.
"I think a city of our size has to have that option," he said. "We've delayed this hearing tonight so people can offer opinions, and no one's here, so I don't know how controversial this is. I think for the greater good, we should move ahead and offer those services."
Council president Sindi Harrison added that residents living in the areas adjacent to the I-2 industrial zone did receive mailings about the hearing and proposed change.
"I understand a funeral home asked for this to be looked into, but we're not making this amendment because of them. It's a general amendment to our zoning code that would apply to any funeral home or any crematorium operating in this district," she said. "So basically, you had a business bring up a problem they saw in our zoning code."
In the region, Kent, Cuyahoga Falls, Fairlawn, Green and Hudson allow cremation facilities within funeral homes or mortuaries, according to Kurtz. Wadsworth, Munroe Falls and Mayfield Heights do not. Barberton, Wadsworth and Kent allow for stand-alone crematories.
Crematories also operate in Akron.
Ohio is one of 45 states that allow funeral homes to operate their own crematories, according to the National Funeral Directors Association's July 2020 annual report. About a third of funeral homes in the country operate their own crematories while another 11% plan to open their own in the next five years.
Reporter Krista S. Kano can be reached at 330-541-9416, email@example.com or on Twitter @KristaKanoABJ.